(46)6.11 h 54 min1999R
A turn-of-the-20th-century theatre repertory company rejects the latest project of their beloved playwright Tuccio (John Turturro), kicking off a saga of intrigue surrounding the influential critic Bevalaqua (Christopher Walken) and star Celimene (Susan Sarandon).
John Turturro
Rufus SewellSusan SarandonChristopher Walken
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
John Turturro
John TurturroJohn Penotti
R (Restricted)
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3.7 out of 5 stars

46 global ratings

  1. 55% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 6% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 9% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 11% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 19% of reviews have 1 stars

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Top reviews from the United States

D. LarsonReviewed in the United States on June 24, 2019
3.0 out of 5 stars
I don’t think my mind is highly developed enough to get it
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“Illuminata” is artistic as anything and, to those whose sensibilities are more refined than mine, probably some sort of triumph of the whole play within a play genre. It certainly has the cast to die for: John Turturro, Aida Turturro (strange topless scene, even), Susan Sarandon (another strange semi-topless scene), Rufus Sewell (who can do no wrong because he was in “Dark City”), Bill Irwin, Beverly D’Angelo, Katherine Borowitz, Ben Gazzara (!), and Christopher Walken in a terrible wig, a worse accent, and one of the strangest Walken readings you will ever see. And that is saying something.

Plus a couple dozen other vaguely familiar faces. All of these actors are in nearly constant motion in a strange blend of Commedia dell’arte, turn of the century touring company, slamming door farce and Italian sexual round robin. Also, puppets! Really good puppets!

But it doesn’t add up to anything very substantial, at least to me. Like most plays about the struggles of playwrights to wright plays and get them produced, this is inside baseball for those not fascinated by backstage. John Turturro will go to great lengths (and girths) to get his new play on the boards. But how far is he willing to go? As far as the endlessly and weirdly self-abasing Katherine Borowitz fears he will go? And how far will Bill Irwin allow himself to be prodded to secure a good review from the feared and omnipotent critic Christopher Walken? What about Susan Sarandon? She’s got a simple proposition. She propositions a whole lot, too. It’s mostly fun and often witty as the character couple and uncouple and the actors seamlessly shift between acting themselves and acting roles. As Sarandon says, she is acting no less when buying bread than on the stage. It’s all art for everybody.

But all that engaging. Turturro comes off not so much as a tortured artist as a thoughtless jerk (although isn’t that the default mode for tortured artists?) and everything and everyone has to revolve around him and his struggle to get his play, “Illuminata” performed instead of some Ibsen that will suit Borowitz well enough, and be a paying gig besides.
Only, the thing is, from the snippets we get to see, “Illuminata” is a tedious mawkish bore, a “he done her wrong but she begs his forgiveness anyway” vaguely misogynist narcissistic meditation on Turturro’s own tortured artist’s self-obsession. Or it seemed to me. By the time we get to see “Illuminata”, I was ready to see the movie over. If the play inside the play had been a work of genius or something, I might’ve got more out of it.

Good points? I did like the puppets. Reminded me of the inappropriate puppets in “Being John Malkovich”, even. Walken is always entertaining, and in “Illuminata” he’s not constrained by the need to create a believable character. Full parody mode, and it’s fun to watch. A terrific unhinged speech about what his critic does like, as against what he emphatically does not.

And there’s a good death scene, some nice old fashioned stage craft with drops and props, some short but appreciated gratuitous nudity, and Susan Sarandon. If you were ever a theater kid, the kid who’d knee-walk on broken glass to do a walk-on in a high school “The Music Man”, this is a picture for you. If you read the theater reviews every week in The New Yorker and know every off-off Broadway play of the last five years, knock yourself out with “Illuminata”.

Me, I knew what was going on about 25-30% of the time. Don’t regret my two hours, don’t need to see it again, even if it would clarify some plot points.
13 people found this helpful
TrancelucenceReviewed in the United States on January 5, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
Highly original, an acting tour de force
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Wow. Very witty, very sexy- an insider's view of the theater. I worked in local theater years ago and this film captures it to perfection, wonderful. SO many good actors at the top of their game (e.g., Ben Gazzara), and a good time is had by all (Christopher Walken in particular). A roller-coaster ride, a panoply of moods and perspectives, from fever pitch actor's angst to LOL moments, punctuated by oases of stillness in the midst of it all. Be advised that there is plenty of profanity. For me always fascinating to see actors portraying actors acting- a real Escher-like test of their acting abilities. Beautiful camera work and cinematography plus insightful yet subtle characterization (of even "minor" roles, amazing). An utterly original, well-written, multi-layered film with a lot going on, a lot to unpack- I enjoyed it from beginning to end. (If you enjoy Illuminata, you may also like the imaginative, highly original and somewhat bizarre Hamlet 2 with Steve Coogan, also about acting, in life and on stage.) HIGHLY recommended.
8 people found this helpful
Laser PointReviewed in the United States on September 13, 2019
1.0 out of 5 stars
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I got this movie because of the cast. What could possibly go wrong with John Turturro, Katherine Borowitz, Beverly D'Angelo, Ben Gazzara and so many other fine actors. And if you are part of the theater world this "inside baseball" work may appeal to you.
But no- for me this film was pretentious, self- indulgent, and most critically, boring!!! what elderly relatives used to call " artsy-fartsy".
Really disappointed.
2 people found this helpful
jwReviewed in the United States on May 11, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
A rare gem back in my pocket.
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I've been hoping for this to become available through Amazon for years, remembering it as one of my all-time favorite movies, not seen since. The first 30 minutes I thought, what a pretentious theater geek twaddle I must have been! But then it began to deliver, all those threads becoming cloth. This is a love it or hate it movie, and discerning minds will disagree. To love it you must enjoy theater, the craft of it, of the empty space variety; you must be patient...and it doesn't hurt to be a sucker for (imperfect) love. Maybe not even then. But I do.
4 people found this helpful
ArdenulReviewed in the United States on December 10, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
What a Gem! And Much Funnier Than Expected
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This movie is worth it for Sarandon and Walken alone. Everybody's doing star turns. It's laugh-out-loud funny in places, and the ending is philosophical and amusing at the same time.

It helps if you know something about theatre (and literature) around 1900 going in. The film doesn't bother to explain things, which might be confusing unless you can just relax and go along for the ride.
2 people found this helpful
Ron BlachmanReviewed in the United States on April 28, 2019
2.0 out of 5 stars
I should have known better
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Great cast but this never engaged me. After 20 or 25 minutes I threw in the towel. Actors doing movies and plays about being actors are the definition of self-indulgence and self-importance. For some people, though this stuff is delicious. Chacun a son gout!
6 people found this helpful
EZReviewed in the United States on October 16, 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars
This is a flawed masterpiece.
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OK, let me make this succinct.... John Turturro has turned out an unusual film that deals with an acting company in an Italian town at the turn of the century. The movie, in true Pirandellian fashion, slides in and out of illusion and reality and focuses on love as the greatest of human foibles and mysteries. Turturro is fine in the lead role as the playwright, but his real-life wife must take top honors for her exquisite and unforgettable performance as a mature and sensitive stage actress. Christopher Walken is hilarious in the role of an aging, homosexual drama critic who, accused of liking nothing at all (actually he likes young men), insists that here are indeed many things he likes: "...chocolate, Caravaggio, revenge..." The film is thoughtful and often incisive, with, regrettably, occasional lapses into the grotesque, which will turn off some viewers. The great scenes, however, will linger in the mind long after the tawdry aspects of this incomparable film are but a dream. Highly recommended to anyone interested in the meaning of theater, in the illusion of stagecraft, in fine acting, in excellent and original writing for the screen. "Bravo" to Turturro for putting this ocular feast together; "Brava" to his extraordinary wife; and "Bravissimi" to all who participated in the creation of this film. And by the way: how refreshing to watch a distinguished film about Italians without a single mention of the Mafia!
31 people found this helpful
JoannaReviewed in the United States on May 29, 2012
4.0 out of 5 stars
Illuminating Illuminata
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A delightful surprise - 'Illuminata' is a magical realist tragicomedy regarding a troup of late 19th century actors set in an undisclose location...It's a picaresque misadventure with the emphasis on the MAGIC in magical realism!
It's full of stunning images, halucinations, hilarity and high jinx. John Tuturro. Christopher Walken, Susan Sarandon and Rufus Sewell are all magnetic as an egocentric playwrite, an unhappy but flamboyent theatre critic, an actress in her middle years still playing 19 year old virgins, and a ham who's sexual shenanigans are as outragious as his on stage performances.
I recommend this film highly for any adult who wants to be beguiled and enchanted by this films unexpected charm.
4 people found this helpful
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